Members of the Polk Education Association (PEA) ratified three new contracts with Polk County Public Schools, the union announced late Tuesday.
“We very pleased by how smoothly this year’s negotiations proceeded, and by how quickly the school district and the union were able to come to an agreement,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd.
“The teachers, paraeducators and clerical personnel of Polk County Public Schools perform life-changing work. We are deeply thankful for the tremendous impact they make not only for individual children but for our community as a whole. In light of today’s funding, I wish we could pay them more, but working with the PEA, and within the constraints of an extremely tight budget, we were able to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. I’m proud of the collaboration that took place at the negotiating table — and we’ll continue working with the union to do all that we can to support our teachers, paras, and clerical personnel.”
The PEA represents approximately 6,612 teachers, 1,512 paraeducators and 549 educational support (clerical) personnel.
Under the newly ratified agreements, all teachers, paraeducators and educational support personnel will receive a $300 annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) added to their salaries.
The COLA increase will boost the starting salary for first-year teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no teaching experience to $40,972.
In addition to the COLA, teachers will advance one salary experience level, or advance the appropriate number of performance levels, depending upon whether they are on the Grandfathered Salary Schedule or the Performance Salary Schedule.
In addition to the COLA, eligible paraeducators and educational support personnel will advance one salary experience level on their respective salary schedules.
The agreement also keeps the cost of employee health insurance at $0, though the cost of insuring spouses and children is increasing.
There is also still no cost for employees, retired employees, their spouse and children on the Polk County Public Schools health plan to go to the district’s two health clinics. Monthly contributions from the School Board make the health clinics possible. The School Board’s clinic contribution per employee will increase from $20 a month to $40 a month under the terms of the agreement with PEA.
The settlement with PEA will cost approximately $7.4 million in additional salaries and benefits.
Employees who have questions may contact Human Resource Services at 863-534-0781.
Last month, the School Board also approved a tentative agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2227, which represents about 2,500 employees, including bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers and school nutrition personnel. That agreement includes a 1.5 percent COLA, would move eligible employees ahead one salary level, and would boost the starting pay for bus drivers to $13.40 per hour.
The three AFSCME agreements were ratified by the employees on September 29, 2018.